Once the celebrating is done, Ainge has to get back to work
By: Byron Parker
A repeat isn't out of the question for this franchise. The Big Three are all signed up until 2010 and players like Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo aren't going anywhere anytime soon. The core of this team won't be affected next season. But there are six players who become potential free agents over the off-season--Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, James Posey, Scot Pollard, Tony Allen and Eddie House. All of these players have played a crucial role in the Celtics being able to bring a title back to Boston; whether it was in the regular season or the post-season. The only name that really doesn't really stick out at you in terms of importance to Boston's run at the title would most likely be Scot Pollard--no disrespect to Scot. The chances of him remaining in a Celtics uniform is very slim. He can be effectively used to take up space in the paint for another team, but the Celtics really don't show any need for him so he'll most likely be gone next season. Hell, retirement could be the next step for him if you consider his career not having an upside what so ever. If you look at P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, their age is catching up to them as well and they may be pondering retirement. P.J. Brown was called out of retirement and his presence helped the Celtics in many ways, but he has his ring now and retiring may be his next option. It is tough to see Brown coming back, especially considering the talent that's on the bench with players like Powe, Davis, etc. He's 38 years old and winning the NBA Title maybe the icing on the cake for his career. The same standards apply for Sam. He's also 38 and he was basically called in to bring his veteran presence to the team, and guide Rajon Rondo in the post-season. That he did, and now it may be a wrap for his career. The Celtics will probably look to get younger rather than older, and Cassell wouldn't help out that case.
The most important name of the bunch is James Posey. Posey showed off his importance to this team by playing solid basketball throughout the season, and turning it up a notch in the playoffs. He was a constant threat on the floor for Boston as he was able to lock-down the offensive threats on the opposing teams, while he came up big offensively himself. He scored about 9 points a game in the Finals while playing about 25 minutes. He's a gamer and after helping teams like the Miami Heat and the Celtics win NBA Titles, he would be hot in the free-agent market if he were to opt-out of his two year contract with Boston. With this said, he most likely do just that. After teams see a guy like that come up big in his years of playing in the playoffs, they wouldn't mind having a piece like that on their team. He's not just a veteran presence--he contributes to his team by scoring, playing defense and he is sometimes reliable in crunch time. If he is open in the corner for a three and your team is in need of a big basket, Posey can hit it for you. James is important to the Celtics, but if he gets another offer from another playoff contending team that's hard to refuse, then I see him out of Boston next season. It's no secret that the team would love to keep him on the roster but his list of suitors may be pretty long.
Tony Allen and Eddie House are also two names among the ones mentioned in the list of potential free-agents coming out of Boston. House has hopped from team to team throughout his NBA career, and there is question to whether or not he will be a Celtic next year or not. He is a solid guard who is always prepared to play and can come in at any time to put up some quick points if you catch him on the right night. When Cassell injured his wrist and Rondo struggled in the playoffs, House came right in and made his presence felt. During the Finals, House saw 19 minutes a game and used them to his advantage by putting up 8 points a night. With his ability to quickly pull the the trigger from the perimeter, he can definitely help a team out with offense off of the bench. If I was Ainge, that would be a guy that I would look to bring back, for the fact that he brings so much more energy off of the bench than people think. He isn't a bad guy to have sitting on your bench. But with his history in not really having a home, he may not be back. Ainge may feel better knowing that he can do better than House with him earning about $1.5 million. And I feel that teams may be looking at him to lock him up for a couple years longer than the Celtics held onto him. In Allen's case, Gabe Pruitt may be ready to step in to take over the back up point guard position behind Rondo. That leaves Allen in a tough situation. But it's not like Allen didn't have any sort of presence on the court. He played his role as a reserve and though he made mistakes, those were only mental blunders that can only be fixed with experience. With only three years in the league and knee injuries that forced him to miss time in his career, he can only get better as a player. But the decision to bring him back sits on Ainge's shoulders. It's no secret that Ainge would like to see more out of Allen, but how patient will he be with him? He is a restricted free-agent and there is no telling how his situation will fair out. It's really a toss-up for him. For some reason, I believe that the Celtics will keep him for his consistent defense and his energy. But if a team offers him a deal that the Celtics are unwilling to match, then say bye-bye to him.
If/when the Celtics organization figures out what is going to happen with these potential free-agents, then there will be a lot of shoes to fill on the bench. They will have the last pick in the NBA Draft and whoever they choose will most likely be the next step in rebuilding the bench. Some minor off-season signings may help that out as well. But Ainge will have another busy off-season this year. He doesn't have to bring in anymore big names in order to win another NBA Title, but pending on the decisions made by those in the front office regarding the potential pool of free-agents coming out of Boston, there will be a search for role players who can come in and do what they are called upon to do. After all the celebrating is completed, Ainge will have to go right back to work and decisions by himself and the players will have to be made. It'll be an interesting off-season for the NBA Champs.